Population Armageddon Nears

By Donald A. Collins | 28 February 2011

The Earth may be approaching a tipping point due to climate change and increasing population. Image: Cheng (Lily) Li / CC

My wife Sally and I attended a Washington luncheon on Feb. 19 in the offices of Population Services International (PSI) to hear the views of Richard Ottaway, a member of the British Parliament.

He presented a litany of troubling statistics about population growth and its effect on the world’s welfare. Ottaway heads a valuable parliamentary committee that gives the overpopulation question strong visibility in Britain.

His interest was instigated, in part, by two distinguished family planning professionals—Martha Campbell, head of Venture Strategies at the University of California, Berkeley, and her husband, Dr. D. Malcolm Potts, U.C. Berkeley’s international family planning professor.

Another participant, PSI founder Philip Harvey, discussed decades of progress in providing family planning globally. Harvey, now president of contraception marketer DKT International, felt we advocates often have been too hard on ourselves for not doing better, given these efforts have lowered births per woman worldwide.

Nonetheless, as Ottaway noted, a population increase from 2 billion in 1930 to almost 7 billion today means that there are more net new humans currently being added daily to our planet (about 219,000 net new humans) than when the birth control pill was first FDA-approved in 1960 (100,000-plus net more people).

This demographic reality virtually ensures another 2 billion to 3 billion people will be added to the total number in this century because of the increased numbers of young people entering their reproductive years. Why has this glaring fact gained such little notice by too many world leaders?

Richard Benedick, former U.S. ambassador for population affairs in the State Department in the 1980s, noted that because of the failure of world leaders to act decisively on population growth, it will require a major global-level catastrophe to provide an effective wake-up call about curbing population growth.

Upheavals already are occurring regularly. While unemployment and lack of food in Egypt are cited as major causes of unrest, population growth is not often cited enough as the root cause. Benedick predicted that our planet now has moved very close to that global tipping point where any number of various disasters could trigger a catastrophic crisis affecting us all. The triggers for such a future are multiple.

Food seems to be a major main reason for the current ripple of Middle East rioting. These worldwide pressures lead Benedick to opine that the tipping point to Armageddon might well be soon.

Obviously, such predictions are uncertain and shouldn’t stop serious agencies such as PSI from avidly pursuing their family planning goals, even though our own House of Representatives has been recently overstocked with neo-Neanderthals who fail to connect the dots on denying women access to contraception and this looming crisis. Defunding Planned Parenthood is akin to denying that sex never produces results unwanted by women.

A trip last November to Cambodia revealed that medical pills are now being widely offered to women who wish to terminate their early pregnancies so they do not have to go to clinics for surgical removals. These products give women unprecedented fertility control.

None of the great work by Phil Harvey’s DKT and others, including PSI, should stop. Now new options for permanent infertility are in the pipeline. Indeed, everything that can be done now should be urgently pursued, not cut from the federal budget for strictly ideological and political reasons.

But the hour is late and these efforts might not be in time to avert the tragedies that await our plundered planet.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
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